Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert isn't producing the same offensive numbers that he did last year.
The Bishop Dwenger graduate had 63 receptions for 803 yards with five touchdowns last season, but entering Saturday's home game against Wake Forest (5-5), the 6-foot-6, 251-pound senior has only 34 receptions for 470 yards with three touchdowns for the No. 3 Irish (10-0).
Eifert is still only five receptions away from breaking Ken MacAfree's school record for receptions by a tight end. Eifert has 124 catches for 1,625 yards.
But coach Brian Kelly said during his Tuesday news conference that Eifert's season is about more than statistics.
"This isn't about numbers this year," Kelly said. "This is about a guy that's developing himself as a complete tight end. So if you asked the guys at the next level about Tyler Eifert, they really don't care about how many balls he caught because they know he can catch the football. They're looking at other things that he's developed."
Kelly said Eifert's knowledge of the game has increased as he has lined up at receiver, run blocker or pass protector as well as playing tight end. Kelly also said Eifert has also become a better blocker this year.
"Sometimes at the tight end position you get labeled as either a pass catcher or a run blocker, and he's broke that mold.," Kelly said. "He'll stick his nose in anywhere. He's not afraid. Sometimes the tight ends get the reputation as a pass catcher and they don't like to get in there and block. Sometimes they're just glorified offensive lineman. What I saw early on was a guy that had the combination and the ability to be the best tight end because of those two skills together.
"He's going to find himself in a pretty good position in April."